A Summary of Act 1 of The Crucible by Arthur Miller
The play opens with Parris praying for Betty. Tituba, his black slave enters. Parris brought her with him from Barbados where he used to be a merchant. Tituba is frightened by Bettys sudden illness. Abigail Williams, Parriss niece enters and tells Parris that Susanna Walcott has arrived from Doctor Briggs. Susanna says that the doctor can find no explanation for Bettys illness in his books, but that Prris might look to unnatural things for the cause of it
Parris is frightened and angered by this: he is already unpopular in the town and he knows that he cannot afford to be associated with any suggestion of witchcraft. Parris is shown as a miserable, harsh man who thinks that everyone else should be as serious as he is. He turns on Abigail and confronts her with the fact that he caught her, Betty and the others dancing in the forest. Abigail admits that they were dancing but says when you leaped out of the bush so suddenly, Betty was frightened and then she fainted. When Parris caught the girls, Tituba was with them. Tituba was waving her arms, swaying over the fire and screeching her Barbados songs.
Despite Parriss accusations of witchcraft, Abigail tells him that it were sport uncle! She knows she is close to being found out and tries to claim that the girls activities were natural and innocent. Parries thinks that he saw someone running naked through the woods but of course, Abigail denies that anything like that went on during the night. Parris asks his niece why she was dismissed from goody Proctors house and why she had said that she would never sit next to anything that had been so soiled by Abigail. She replies to Parris by telling him that she was treated as a slave and will not have her face blackened for any of them. Abigail looses her temper and calls goody Proctor a gossiping liar. Parris is very close to discovering the real reason that Abigail left Proctors house. He is put off from doing so by the arrival of the Putnams.
The Putnams resent Parris and are deeply vengeful people. Thomas Putnam had apposed the appointment of the previous minister as he wanted his own brother-in-law to have the position. When Mrs Putnam enters, she is pleased that misfortune has come upon Parris. She quizzes Parris about Betty flying over Ingersolls barn but before parries can defend himself, Thomas Putnam enters. Thomas Putnam observes Betty and compares her to the state of his own daughter who is also ill. Mrs Putnam thinks that the girls are only sick but that its death driven into them, forked and hoofed. Mrs Putnam believes that Ruth was bewitched and so it affected her daughter.
The Putnams are very happy that Parris is in trouble because they may have the chance to appoint a new minister and blame their own misfortunes on witchcraft at the same time to make Parris look even worse.
Even though Parris says that witchcraft had nothing to do with it he sent for reverend Hale of Beverly, a well known expert in domestic arts. Mrs Putnam says that she lost seven babies after her birth and knows her only child has become ill. She sent her daughter Ruth to see Tituba. The Putnams leave with Parris who has gone to pray with the crowd outside and has left Marcy and Abigail alone with Betty.
Abigail tries to wake Betty and Mercy offers to hit the girl to pull her together. She also tells Mercy that she danced in the woods and that He knows Tituba conjured Ruths sisters to come out of the grave. Mary wanted to tell the adults what really happened in the woods but Abigail tells her that if she is whipped then she will be too.
When young Betty wakes up she feels extremely threatened by Abigails presence and asks to see her dead mother. Betty tries to climb out of the window but Abigail pulls her back in and hits her in a state of worry about what betty will say. Betty has heard Abigail talking to Parris and knows that she hasnt told him everything. You drank blood Abby! You didnt tell him that! Abigail tells all the girls to say that they were dancing in the woods and conjuring Ruths dead sisters and not to the other things and that is all. Mary warren is still anxious to own up to it all but Abigail is prevented from hitting her on the entrance of John proctor.
Proctor is a well-respected farmer and thinks quite highly of his status. Abigail immediately flatters proctor Gah! Id almost forgot how strong you are, John Proctor! Proctor has heard about the rumours
of witchcraft and Abigail tells proctor that they were just dancing and proctor replies Ah, youre wicked yet, arent y!
Abigail tries to seduce Proctor saying I am waitin for you every night. Proctor tells Abigail that their affair is over. When Proctor calls her a Child this angers Abigail greatly and tells him that thanks to him she is not a child anymore. She vows to turn against Elizabeth proctor and calls her a cold snivelling woman. Betty cries out which causes parries to return to the room.
Abigail clearly still loves Proctor and is angry and feels resentment of proctors ending of their affair which in turn shows proctors strength of Character. Proctor has made up his mind and nothing is going to change that so Abigails bitterness sets in and she seeks vengeance.
Hale believes tat he is a well educated witch-finder. He takes things very seriously, he feels himself allied by the best minds of Europe. He is told the symptoms of Betty and Ruth. Hale reprimands Putnam for saying that being unable to hear the Lords name is a sure sign of witchcraft We cannot look to superstition in this.
Hale asks questions as to what exactly the girls were doing in the forest. Abigail denys full participation but blames Tituba for most of the doings in the forest. When hail puts pressure on Abigail she says Im a good girl!Im a proper girl! However, Abigail remembers information about the witchcraft and she will use this later in the court scene.
When Tituba is bought in to the room, Abigail blames her for making her drink the blood and that she is making her have wicked dreams. Tituba is an easy target because she is the lowest of status in the town. Hale asks Tituba if the devil came alone or with someone or with someone who she recognised. She said that four people came with the devil and that the devil tried to get her to kill Parris. Tituba names one of the people as Goody Osburn. Mrs Putnam disagrees to this because because she has been her midwife three times.
At this point in the play, some of the characters are terrified whilst others are quick to exploit their fear. Abigail as though she is in a trance adds the names of sarah good and Bridge Bishop to the list. This is where the whole idea of naming the townsfolk comes in. Betty becomes carried away starts naming all sorts of innocent people. Abigail uses this to divert the attention from her. Miller is clearly sing the situation as an allegory of hysteria created during the Mc Carthy era.